Rose Luangisa built her Mount Vernon-based home decor business based on figuring out what looks good.
So when interior decorators and gallery owners started coming to her home 20 years ago to buy African wood sculptures, they looked around her living room and asked if they’d made one for themselves. I asked about decorations.
“They’ll say, ‘Oh, I really like it,'” said Luangisa, 48.
Customer interest in Luangisa’s bespoke pillows, wall hangings, lampshades and furniture led her to expand her business, Luangisa Art Gallery, into home décor about 12 years ago. She designs products in her home, primarily for an upscale female clientele looking for something different.
“This is a labor of love,” Luangisa said of the many unique products.
She caters to her clients’ tastes by designing jewelry, kitchenware, furniture, wall hangings, and bedspreads. Her decorations incorporate African batik cloth, Kuba cloth, mud cloth, and other African crafts.
Luangisa’s fabrics and materials come from Africa, but much of her inspiration comes from Africa.
“I love New York. I spend a lot of time there. I go to the major department stores… Saks Fifth Avenue to see the seasonal colors. And I look at a lot of magazines,” she said. Ta.
Luangisa arrived at Mount Vernon in 1987 from her native Tanzania. She attended Iona College where she earned her science degree in computer science and her MBA in marketing.
She works as a computer analyst at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx.
Luangisa started her interior decoration business in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s most populous city and an important economic center in East Africa. There, her family runs a business selling traditional wooden carvings. Her family still helps her with her business.
Globalization has increased society’s interest in products made from traditional African textiles, but economic trends are also making local manufacturing difficult. Her lampshade manufacturing company in New Jersey recently went out of business.
“Right now in America I’ve realized something: People don’t make this anymore. They don’t want to sew curtains. They don’t want to make ottomans. They don’t want to make chairs. It’s very expensive. I came to this country to find someone,” said Luangisa, who makes her own keychains and jewelry while watching TV at night.
“All the little tricks have to be done here,” she said. “Because when you pay someone, it costs a lot of money.”
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